CVS expands 'talking' prescription labels to all locations to support visually impaired patients

hands holding a smartphone with screen shot of pharmacy app and a medication bottle
Patients can scan their prescription labels through the CVS Pharmacy app and have their information read out loud. (CVS Pharmacy)

CVS Pharmacy is expanding an in-app feature for visually impaired patients, which reads prescription information out loud, to all of its nearly 10,000 U.S. locations.

The solution, called Spoken Rx, was designed in collaboration with the American Council of the Blind. Patients enrolled in the program can scan the labels on their prescription containers and have their information, including the medication’s name and directions for use, read out loud to them in either English or Spanish.

CVS first rolled out the feature in July 2020 for 1,700 stores, with a promise to make it available across all its pharmacy locations by the end of 2021.

According to the drugstore behemoth, it’s the first in-app prescription reader application developed by a national retail pharmacy.

“We continue to remove barriers to healthcare for all patients, and this in-app technology furthers our commitment by providing patients added flexibility and independence,” said Jared Tancrelle, senior vice president of store operations at CVS Health, in a statement. “Our patients are increasingly digitally connected, so digital tools like Spoken Rx are a priority for us as we listen to feedback and adapt our suite of pharmacy services and programs to ensure we’re best meeting the needs of all customers.”

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The feature is free to all patients who enroll. CVS can provide a standalone speaker device to read prescription labels if the patient doesn’t have a smartphone.

CVS also offers ScripTalk on its website, which allows patients who get their medications delivered to their homes to have their prescriptions read aloud through the separate ScripTalk app. The pharmacy giant first made the service available in 2014.

The company has options for braille and large-print prescription labels through their online pharmacy too.

“This is a positive step that offers same-day access for prescriptions filled in CVS stores. Spoken Rx allows for a greater level of privacy, safety and independence for blind and visually impaired customers,” said Eric Bridges, executive director of the American Council of the Blind.

CVS Health plans to close 900 stores over the next three years, according to a mid-November announcement by the company.

The pharmacy chain noted its increased focus on its digital presence as consumers increasingly choose to buy online rather than in-store.

RELATED: CVS Health plans 900 store closures, lowers guidance as retail strategy shifts digital

Around 12 million people 40 years and up in the U.S. are visually impaired, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The tiny fonts on prescription bottles and side-effect pamphlets can cause big problems for people with vision problems. But there’s no federal rule requiring pharmacies to give patients more accessible options.

The Food and Drug Administration passed a law in 2012 encouraging pharmacies to develop prescription labeling solutions for visually impaired and older patients.

The U.S. Access Board has since developed best practices guidelines for pharmacies, but they aren’t enforced.